Founded in 1991 in response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic, the Midlands AIDS Service Organisation (MASO) celebrates its 25th birthday this year. So MASO and I are the same age, which really puts into perspective just how well established the organisation has become in such a short space of time. The ultimate goal is to eradicate HIV and AIDS by 2030, through education and prevention initiatives because Zimbabweans are well educated around the matter, but there are still some social myths surrounding HIV, which need to be eliminated.

The behavioural change programme was introduced to specifically target young people as a result of the 2007 epidemic, encouraging the youths to act on the knowledge they have regarding HIV and AIDS. The orphaned children programme was introduced to target the generation gap brought about by HIV and AIDS-related deaths of parents. Demand generation followed up within the communities to see if people were using the HIV testing and counselling facilities. This initiative also branches out from HIV and AIDS topics, to increasing knowledge of gender-based violence, child abuse and other issues. MASO work with a team of volunteers that take time out of their busy daily schedules to go out into the communities and make a difference with the beneficiaries.

The Progressio ICS team discussing ideas with the ‘Parents’ of MASO

The volunteers are well known within the communities and are basically information trees about each of the communities. Different communities have varying dynamics and the volunteers understand how we should vary our approach and the problems we want to tackle in these communities. As we (Progressio ICS volunteers at MASO) are a new programme, and half of us are new to the country, it would obviously be beneficial to be introduced to the volunteers. So, that is what we did!

On Wednesday 19 January, MASO held a big introduction session to introduce us as a team to the volunteers, who are already carrying out amazing work on the ground. Because we have split into sub-projects (Income Generating Activities, HIV and AIDS awareness and Child Rights), we branched off into two groups so we could pick their brains, metaphorically. Meeting the volunteers was a big eye opener and it was nice to see the faces behind the work we had heard so much about in our introduction to MASO.

Volunteer Rhiannon Carroll finishing a vote of thanks for the MASO volunteers following the meeting on Wednesday

The volunteers were all very welcoming to us and wonderfully kind. It is safe to say that following the meeting, we can understand the full extent of MASO’s reach and are beginning to realise just how much input this project is going to require in order to make a lasting impact. However, on a positive note, I think we all feel like we have been accepted into the MASO family and have now met the wise aunties, second cousins as well as the parents.

We are looking forward to working with the existing team.

So, until next time… sarai zvakanaka (stay well).

Written by ICS Team Maso